Internet freedom is generally robust in Estonia, a consolidated democracy and European Union (EU) Member State widely known for its pioneering approach to e-government. Protections for user rights are strong and the Estonian government places few limits on online content, however a number of Russian websites were blocked during the coverage period. Cyberattacks that targeted governmental websites had limited impact, in part due to countermeasures taken by Estonian cybersecurity officials.
Democratic institutions are strong, and political and civil rights are widely respected in Estonia. Right-wing and Eurosceptic populist forces have become increasingly vocal.
- In March 2022, the Electronic Communications Act, which transposes the EU's regulatory framework for electronic communications, came into force. Among other things, the act bans the use of Huawei network devices and enables the government to begin the fifth-generation (5G) tendering process (see A1, A4, and C4).
- In early 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU regulators and Estonia’s Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA) ordered the blocking of 50 online media outlets linked to the Russian state in an effort to prevent war propaganda (see B1).
- In May 2022, a court issued fines to two journalists after they published an article about money laundering at a Swedish bank, generating public debate on press freedom (see C3).
- Websites belonging to various Estonian government agencies suffered cyberattacks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however the Estonian government’s response limited the impact of the attacks (see C8).
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||6.006 6.006|
In general, there are no infrastructural limitations to internet access in Estonia. According to data from Statistics Estonia, the state statistics agency, 92.4 percent of households had internet connections in 2022, while 98 percent of people aged 16 to 44 use the internet daily or almost daily as of 2019.1 According to the EU’s latest Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), 83.2 percent of households had fixed-line broadband connections in 2021, while mobile broadband penetration reached.87.3 percent.2 Both rates outperform EU averages.
Speeds are reliable in Estonia. According to Ookla, the median fixed-line broadband download speed stood at 55.73 megabits per second (Mbps) in May 2022, while the median mobile download speed stood at 55.95 Mbps.3
The government continues to enhance information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. The EstWin project, run by the Estonian Broadband Development Foundation, a state-supported foundation, is working to improve fixed-line broadband access. By May 2020, EstWin had delivered 7,000 kilometers of backhaul network.4
The Estonian Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) allotted €24.3 million ($27.5 million) to launching very high-capacity networks (VHCN) in rural areas. These funds are part of a €208 million ($235.5 million) investment project to improve ICT services between 2021 and 2027.5
Public Wi-Fi connections are commonplace,6 including at cafés, hotels, hospitals, schools, and gas stations.7 According to Economist Impact’s 2022 Inclusive Internet Index, 3G mobile networks cover 100 percent of Estonia’s population, while 4G mobile networks cover 99 percent.8 The government adopted a “5G Roadmap” in 2019 which envisions the commercial rollout of 5G services in cities by 2023.9 The distribution of radio frequencies for 5G mobile services was launched at a public auction after the Electronic Communications Act was passed by the parliament in November 2021 (see A4).10
- 1“Information and communication technologies,” Statistics Estonia, accessed March 2, 2022, https://www.stat.ee/en/find-statistics/statistics-theme/technology-inno….
- 2European Commission, “Digital Economy and Society Index 2021: Estonia,” https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/countries-digitisatio…
- 3“Speedtest Global Index,” Speedtest, accessed September 2022, https://web.archive.org/web/20220611155313/https://www.speedtest.net/gl….
- 4The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, “Avalik konsultatsioon: lairiba teine etapp” [Public consultation: the second phase of broadband], May 8, 2020, https://www.ttja.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Lairiba/avalik_….
- 5European Commission, “,” https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/countries-digitisatio…
- 6The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority, “Estonian communication coverage application,” accessed September 29, 2020, www.netikaart.ee.?
- 7“Eesti turvalised õrgud,” Public Wi-Fi Hotspot database in Estonia, accessed October 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20161013201941/http://wifi.ee/.
- 8Economist Impact “The Inclusive Internet Index 2022,” accessed August 2022, https://theinclusiveinternet.eiu.com/explore/countries/EE/performance/i….
- 9“Eesti 5G Teekaart Aastani 2025,” Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, March 2019, https://www.mkm.ee/sites/default/files/eesti_5g_teekaart.pdf.
- 10“Second 5G license auction in Estonia starts Friday, “ ERR News, June 10, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608625831/second-5g-license-auction-in-estonia-sta…; “Estonia revises 5G sale to include fourth licence,” TeleGeography, June 4, 2020, https://www.commsupdate.com/articles/2020/06/04/estonia-revises-5g-sale….
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||3.003 3.003|
There are no significant digital divides in the country. According to DESI, Estonia has one of the highest shares (89 percent) of e-government users in Europe.1
In general, internet connections are affordable. The 2022 Inclusive Internet Index ranks Estonia 23rd in terms of affordability of prices for connections.2 A variety of packages offering internet connections are available at low prices, while very high-speed connections are available at somewhat higher prices. In 2021, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) put the cost of a monthly fixed-line broadband subscription at .95 percent of the gross national income (GNI) per capita, while 2 gigabytes (GB) of mobile data cost 0.24 percent of the GNI per capita.3 According to the World Bank, in 2021, Estonia’s GNI per capita was $27,280.4
According to DESI, prices for fixed-line and mobile broadband plans in Estonia are below the EU average.5 However, the pricing policies of Telia, the leading service provider, have been criticized in the media. Telia offers connections that exceed 100 Mbps, but at much higher prices than in neighboring countries where the company also operates.6 This has resulted in slower take-up of very high-speed fixed-line broadband services. As of 2021, VHCNs covered 71 percent of households, but only 19 percent of households have adopted very high-speed connections, which is below the EU average.7 The Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), the telecommunications regulator, admits that broadband connection at the speed of 100 Mbps or more exceeds the average European price range.8
There is no significant urban-rural digital divide. According to Statistics Estonia, 90.2 percent of households in urban areas had internet connections in 2020, while 89.5 percent of those in rural areas were connected.9
In 2020, slightly fewer men (88.5 percent) used the internet than women (89.6 percent).10 There is a larger gap in usage in terms of age: 99.7 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds use the internet, while just 56.1 percent of 65-74-year-olds do, per 2020 figures.11
- 1European Commission, “Digital Economy and Society Index 2021: Estonia.”
- 2Economist Impact, “The Inclusive Internet Index 2022: Estonia,” accessed June 20, 2022, https://impact.economist.com/projects/inclusive-internet-index/2022/cou….
- 3International Telecommunications Union, “ICT Prices,” accessed August 2022, https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/ICTprices/default.aspx.
- 4“Data: Estonia,” The World Bank, accessed February 7, 2021, https://data.worldbank.org/country/estonia.
- 5European Commission, “Digital Economy and Society Index 2021: Estonia.”
- 6Mikk Salu, “Telia Eesti imeline internet: kuus korda aeglasem, aga see-eest poole kallim” [Telia Estonia’s wonderful internet: six times slower, but half as expensive], Eesti Ekspress, May 27, 2020, https://ekspress.delfi.ee/kuum/telia-eesti-imeline-internet-kuus-korda-….
- 7European Commission, “Digital Economy and Society Index 2021: Estonia.”
- 8Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), “Overview on telecommunications market in Estonia 2021” (in Estonian), https://www.konkurentsiamet.ee/sites/default/files/Dokumentide-failid/k….
- 9Statistics Estonia, “IT20: Arvuti ja koduse internetiühendusega leibkonnad tüübi ja elukoha järgii” [IT20: Households with computer and home internet connection by type and place of residence], New statistical database, accessed September 2022, http://andmebaas.stat.ee/Index.aspx?lang=et&DataSetCode=IT20.
- 10Statistics Estonia, “IT20: Arvuti ja koduse internetiühendusega leibkonnad tüübi ja elukoha järgii” [IT20: Households with computer and home internet connection by type and place of residence].
- 11Statistics Estonia, “IT20: Arvuti ja koduse internetiühendusega leibkonnad tüübi ja elukoha järgii” [IT20: Households with computer and home internet connection by type and place of residence].
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||6.006 6.006|
The government does not exercise technical or legal control over the domestic internet, although the Cybersecurity Act,1 which implemented the EU’s Network and Information System Directive,2 gives it limited powers to restrict the use of or access to information systems in the event of a cybersecurity incident. As an exceptional and temporary measure, the government can also restrict internet connections in “emergency situations”3 and “states of emergency,”4 though this would not necessarily entail a total shutdown of internet connections. There were no government-imposed restrictions or disruptions to connectivity during the coverage period.
- 1Riigi Teataja, “Cybersecurity Act,” May 9, 2018, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/523052018003/consolide.
- 2“Directive (EU) 2016/1148 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2016 concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union,” European Union Law, 1–30, July 19, 2016, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2016/1148/oj.
- 3Riigi Teataja, “Emergency Act,” February 8, 2017, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/513062017001/consolide.
- 4Riigi Teataja, “State of Emergency Act,” accessed September 29, 2020, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/530122013002/consolide.
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||6.006 6.006|
There are no undue legal, regulatory, or economic restrictions on Estonia’s ICT market. The Electronic Communications Act aims to develop and promote a free market and fair competition in telecommunications services.1 Information society services, meaning economic or professional activities involving the processing, storing, or transmitting of information by electronic means upon a recipient’s request, are regulated by the Information Society Services Act.2
There are over 200 operators offering telecommunications services, including six mobile service providers and numerous internet service providers (ISPs) in Estonia. The ICT market is relatively diverse with no significantly dominant companies. Sweden’s Telia is the leading fixed-broadband and mobile service provider, controlling 50 percent of the mobile market and 51 percent of the fixed-line broadband market according to the company’s 2021 annual report.3
Legally, service providers are required to register with the TTJA. There is a registration fee depending on the service provided; the amount is regulated by the State Fees Act.4
The distribution of radio frequencies for 5G mobile services was launched at a public auction in May 2022 after the parliament passed the Electronic Communications Act in November 2021 (see A1).5 The act, which came into force in March 2022,6 bans the use of Huawei technology in Estonian networks and harmonizes consumer rights regulations. Proposed amendments relating to the storage of communications data were initially removed from the bill but are likely to be submitted separately by the Ministry of Justice (see C6).7
- 1Riigi Teataja, “Electronic Communications Act,” December 12, 2004, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/Riigikogu/act/521082017008/consol….
- 2Riigi Teataja, “Information Society Services Act,” April 14, 2004, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/504112013008/consolide.
- 3Telia Company, “Better Connected Living: Annual and Sustainability Report 2021,” 2021, p. 5, https://www.teliacompany.com/en/investors/reports-and-presentations/ann….
- 4Riigi Teataja, “State Fees Act,” December 10, 2014, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/507012020005/consolide.
- 5“Estonia to put three 5G frequency authorizations up for auction,” ERR News, December 16, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608438140/estonia-to-put-three-5g-frequency-author….
- 6“Long-awaited 5G tender auctions begin Tuesday,” ERR News, May 3, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608585583/long-awaited-5g-tender-auctions-begin-tu….
- 7“Legislation barring Huawei 5G tech passes Riigikogu,” ERR News, November 15, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608414737/legislation-barring-huawei-5g-tech-passe….
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||4.004 4.004|
The main regulatory bodies for the Estonian ICT sector are the TTJA and the State Information System Authority (RIA). Both operate under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. The TTJA monitors the fixed-line and mobile broadband markets,1 ensuring compliance with EU Regulation 2015/2120,2 which outlines open-internet access requirements and user rights relating to electronic communications networks and services. Meanwhile, the RIA manages state ICT resources.3 Both have a reputation for professionalism and independence. There were no reported cases of undue interference in the ICT sector or abuse of power by these bodies during the coverage period.
The Estonian Internet Foundation, which represents a broad group of stakeholders in the Estonian internet community, manages Estonia’s top-level domain (.ee).4
- 1The Consumer Protection and Regulation Authority, “Ameti tutvustus” [Introduction to the Agency], accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.ttja.ee/
- 2“Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015,” European Union Law, November 26, 2015, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32015R2120.
- 3Information System Authority, “Introduction and structure,” accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.ria.ee/en/information-system-authority/introduction-and-str….
- 4Estonian Internet Foundation, “Public portal,” accessed March 1, 2022 http://www.internet.ee/en/.
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||4.004 6.006|
Score Change: The score declined from 5 to 4 to reflect the government’s blocking of Russian state-linked websites, as well as the implementation of a European Union regulation ordering member states to block the websites of RT, Sputnik, and RT’s local subsidiaries.
There are very few blocked websites in Estonia, and the vast majority of political, social, and cultural content is freely available to users. However, during the coverage period, the regulator blocked a number of websites in response to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.
On February 25, 2022, one day after the Russian military invaded Ukraine, the TTJA ordered telecommunications operators to restrict online broadcasting of six pro-Kremlin TV channels, including RTR-Planeta, RTVI, Rossiya 24, REN TV, NTV Mir, and PBK, for twelve months in an effort to limit Russian war propaganda.1 In March 2022, the TTJA ordered the blocking of another TV channel RBK (RBC TV), seven websites (ntv.ru, ren.tv, 5-tv.ru, 78.ru, 1tv.com, lenta.ru, and tass.ru.),2 and 12 internet channels, whose “content incites to commit offenses towards national security and national defense, to the detriment of the security of society,” according to a TTJA press release.3
In early March 2022, the EU issued Regulation 2022/350, ordering member states to “urgently suspend the broadcasting activities” of RT, RT France, RT Germany, RT Spanish, RT UK, and Sputnik, and block their websites because they “engaged in continuous and concerted propaganda actions targeted at civil society.”4 In total, more than 40 TV channels and more than 50 websites were blocked in Estonia between February 2022 and the end of the coverage period.5 In June 2022, after the coverage period, the EU adopted a new package of sanctions, which suspended the distribution of five Russian news outlets, including Rossiya RTR/RTR-Planeta, Rossiya 24/Russia 24, and TV Centre International.36
The primary restriction on internet content remains a ban of online illegal gambling websites (see B3). As of January 2021, the Tax and Customs Board (MTA) had more than 1,600 URLs on its list of illegal online gambling sites that Estonian ISPs are required to block.6
- 1“Pro-Kremlin TV channels may be banned in Estonia in next 24 hours,” ERR News, February 24, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608511352/pro-kremlin-tv-channels-may-be-banned-in…; “TTJA keelas viie Vene telekanali edastamise Eesti territooriumil,” ERR, February 25, 2022, https://www.err.ee/1608511946/ttja-keelas-viie-vene-telekanali-edastami….
- 2“Estonian tech regulator to restrict access to seven Russian websites,” ERR News, March 16, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608533494/estonian-tech-regulator-to-restrict-acce….
- 3Press releases by Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), March 9, 2022, https://ttja.ee/uudised/ttja-keelas-tanasest-telekanali-rbk-taasedastam… , and April 8, 2022, https://ttja.ee/uudised/ttja-piirab-ligipaasu-veel-neljale-veebilehele.
- 4“COUNCIL REGULATION (EU) 2022/350 of 1 March 2022 amending Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 concerning restrictive measures in view of Russia's actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine,” Official Journal of the European Union, Volume 65, March 2, 2022, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:L:2022:065:F….
- 5Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), accessed June 8, 2022, https://ttja.ee/uudised/ttja-piirab-ligipaasu-veel-neljale-veebilehele.
- 6Tax and Customs Board, “Blokeeritud hasartmängu internetileheküljed” [Blocked gambling internet pages], accessed March 1, 2022, https://www.emta.ee/ariklient/registreerimine-ettevotlus/hasartmangukor…
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||3.003 4.004|
Online content is sometimes removed following a court order, although this is not a widespread issue.
Comments on news websites and discussion boards are sometimes removed by website administrators. Most popular websites have codes of conduct for the responsible and ethical use of their services and enforcement policies that allow certain content to be taken down.
At times, social media content is removed. Between January and December 2021, Facebook restricted access to 91 items that were in violation of Estonian law, and one item in response to a consumer policy report submitted by the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority.1 Twitter received no content removal requests during that same period. 2 Google received 13 takedown requests in 2021, removing 100 percent of the 6 requests made in the first half of the year, and 85.7 percent of the 7 requests made in the latter half of the year.3
Russian social media platforms Odnoklassniki and VKontakte are also popular in Estonia, but their parent companies do not release data about content removal requests.
- 1Facebook, “Content restrictions based on local law: Estonia, “Transparency report,” accessed August 22, 2022https://transparency.facebook.com/content-restrictions/country/EE
- 2Twitter, “Transparency: Estonia,” Transparency Report, accessed August 22, 2022, https://transparency.twitter.com/en/reports/countries/ee.html.
- 3Google, “Government requests to remove content: Estonia,” Transparency Report, , accessed September 30, 2022, https://transparencyreport.google.com/government-removals/by-country/EE.
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||4.004 4.004|
Restrictions on online content are transparent and grounded in the law. The Gambling Act, one of the few laws that imposes restrictions, requires domestic and foreign gambling websites to obtain a special license.1 Unlicensed websites are subject to blocking by the MTA (see B1). The MTA’s list of blocked websites is transparent and available to the public.
Under the Information Society Service Act and pursuant to the EU’s E-Commerce Directive, service providers are generally not liable for illegal content transmitted by users.2
However, in 2015, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) upheld a controversial 2009 Estonian Supreme Court decision in the case of Delfi v. Estonia, which established intermediary liability for third-party defamatory comments on news sites.3 The ECtHR confirmed that holding intermediaries responsible for third-party content published on their website or forum is not against Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guaranteeing freedom of expression.
In December 2021, the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market was adopted into Estonian law.4 The directive, among other things, establishes ancillary copyright for digital publishers and makes “online content sharing service providers” partially liable for copyright violations on their platforms.5
Similarly, the EU Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)6 was adopted in March 2022.7 The AVMSD requires “video-sharing platform services” to take “appropriate measures” to protect minors from content “which may impair their physical, mental or moral development” and the general public from content involving child sexual abuse, racism, or xenophobia as well as content inciting hatred, terrorism, or violence.8 According to the AVMSD, service providers must apply for a license to operate, submit reports on the structure of the program, and disclose their ownership structure. The regulatory changes mainly affect Estonian audiovisual media service providers.9
- 1Riigi Teataja, “Gambling Act,” October 15, 2008, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/Riigikogu/act/507122016002/consol…
- 2Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, “Comparative Study on Blocking, Filtering and Take-Down of Illegal Internet Content,” December 20, 2015, https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?d….
- 3Columbia University: Global Freedom of Expression, “Delfi AS v. Estonia,” accessed September 30, 2020, https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/cases/delfi-as-v-estonia/.
- 4“Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019,” European Union Law, May 17, 2019, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2019/790/oj; “Autoriõiguse seaduse muutmise seadus (autoriõiguse direktiivide ülevõtmine),” State Gazette (Riigi Teataja) https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/128122021001
- 5“Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019,” European Union Law.
- 6“Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018,” European Union Law, November 28, 2018, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/dir/2018/1808/oj.
- 7State Gazette (Riigi Teataja), https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/127022022001.
- 8“Directive (EU) 2018/1808 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 November 2018,” European Union Law.
- 9Introduction of regulation proposal at the Parliament, accessed May 30, 2022, riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/4ba650d7-565f-425c-960b-2ed72b05857c/Meediateenuste%20seaduse%20muutmise%20ja%20sellega%20seonduvalt%20teiste%20seaduste%20muutmise%20seadus.
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||4.004 4.004|
In general, self-censorship is not prevalent, and online debates are active and open.
Estonians value freedom of speech highly. According to a 2020 Eurobarometer survey, Estonians consider protecting freedom of speech one of the key tasks of the European Parliament.1
Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 Press Freedom Index ranks Estonia as the fourth freest country. Press freedom is guaranteed on both legal and political levels. However, journalists may self-censor in response to cyberbullying or because of potential penalties from anti-defamation legislation (see C2). According to the report, online threats by private individuals have increased, with the most severe cases being reported to the police and investigated.2
- 1“Estonians value freedom of speech more than European average,” ERR News, March 3, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608128914/estonians-value-freedom-of-speech-more-t….
- 2Reporters Without Borders, “Estonia”, accessed June 8, 2022, https://rsf.org/en/country/estonia.
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||3.003 4.004|
Manipulation of the online information landscape was evident during the coverage period, especially concerning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For example, false information about Ukrainians attacking Russians in Estonia was shared across Facebook and Instagram.1
Russian information campaigns have historically sought to manipulate public opinion in Estonia.2 An April 2020 report from the cybersecurity company Recorded Future identified an apparent Kremlin-backed disinformation operation aimed at undermining Estonia’s relationship with the EU, including by disseminating forged government communiqués.3
Members and groups affiliated with the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) have continued to publish and disseminate provocative statements and biased information via partisan-funded online channels, such as Uued Uudised and Objektiiv.4 The content is widely disseminated on social media.
Generally, disinformation is evident in the online channels. According to Global Disinformation Index (GDI), one quarter of Estonia’s sites present a high risk of disinforming their online readers. These sites are outside Estonian mainstream media market, with some based in Russia.5
- 1Silver Tambur and Sten Hankewitz, “Fake news about Ukrainians attacking Russians in Estonia circulate in social media, while Russia warns the Baltics,” Estonian World, March 5, 2022, https://estonianworld.com/security/fake-news-about-ukrainians-attacking….
- 2Estonian Internal Security Service (KAPO), “Annual Review 2019/20,” accessed September 30, 2020, https://www.kapo.ee/sites/default/files/public/content_page/Annual%20Re….
- 3“Inent to Infekt: ‘Operation Pinball’ Tactics Reminiscent of ‘Operation Secondary Infektion’,” Recorded Future, April 8, 2020, https://www.recordedfuture.com/operation-pinball-tactics/.
- 4The sites are https://uueduudised.ee/ and https://objektiiv.ee/.
- 5“Rating the Disinformation Risks of Estonia’s News Sites”, Global Disinformation Index, accessed March 5, 2021, https://disinformationindex.org/2020/10/rating-the-disinformation-risks….
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||3.003 3.003|
There are few economic or regulatory barriers to posting content online. News websites do not need to register with the government to operate.1
In line with the EU, Estonia supports net neutrality. Providers found to be in violation can be fined up to €9,600 ($10,870).2 Estonia has not implemented separate rules on net neutrality and follows the EU’s regulatory framework on open internet access and user rights relating to electronic communications networks and services.3 The TTJA regularly analyzes the ICT market for zero-rating plans that may be in violation of net neutrality, along with other net neutrality violations; in its latest report, it did not identify any violations.4
- 1Halliki Harro-Loit and Urmas Loit, “Estonia,” Centre for Media Pluralism and Freedom, December 2016, http://cmpf.eui.eu/media-pluralism-monitor/mpm-2016-results/estonia/.
- 2Ali Al-Awadi, Andreas Czák, Ludger Benedikt Deffaa, Benedikt Gollatz, Cornelia Hoffmann, Thomas Lohninger, and Erwin Ernst Steinhammer, “The Net Neutrality Situation in the EU: Evaluation of the First Two Years of Enforcement,” Epicenter Works, January 29, 2019 https://epicenter.works/sites/default/files/2019_netneutrality_in_eu-ep….
- 3European Commission, “Annual country reports on open internet from national regulators – 2019,” July 5, 2019, https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/annual-country-repor….
- 4European Commission, “Annual country reports on open internet from national regulators – 2019.”
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability?||4.004 4.004|
A diverse range of content is available online. The websites Delfi, Postimees, and ERR were the country’s 4th, 5th, and 11th most popular sites in 2020.1 Estonians upload and share user-generated content more frequently than the average user in the EU.2
Knowledge of foreign languages among Estonians is high, which facilitates access to diverse content.3
- 1Similar Web, “Top Websites Ranking: Estonia,” August 1, 2020, https://www.similarweb.com/top-websites/estonia.
- 2Eurostat, “Individuals using the internet for uploading self-created content,” accessed September 30, 2020, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/refreshTableAction.do?tab=table&plugin….
- 3“Estonia Ranks High for English Proficiency,” Study In Estonia, November 9, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20180411095606/http://www.studyinestonia.ee…
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||6.006 6.006|
Estonians use social media platforms to share news and information, as well as to generate public discussion about current political issues. No restrictions to online mobilization tools were put in place during the coverage period.
In 2014, the official platform Rahvaalgatus.ee was launched, enabling people to compile petitions, send them to the parliament if they gather at least 1,000 digital signatures, and monitor lawmakers’ responses.1 As of February 2022, 242 petitions had been launched, out of which 109 gathered the necessary support to be sent to the parliament.2 The platform also accepts and facilitates petitions to local governments. By law, the petition needs to gather signatures from at least 1 percent of residents in a given locality to warrant the official procedure in the local council.3
- 1“Sul on mõte, kuidas ühiskonnaelu parandada? [Do you have any idea how to improve society?],” Rahvaalgatus, accessed March 3, 2022, https://rahvaalgatus.ee/.
- 2“Tere tulemast rahvaalgatuse koju! [Welcome to the home of the people’s initiative!],” Rahvaalgatus, accessed February 28, 2022 https://rahvaalgatus.ee/
- 3Kohaliku omavalitsuse korralduse seadus, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/130122015082
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||6.006 6.006|
All citizens have the constitutional rights to freely obtain information and to freely disseminate ideas, beliefs, and facts.1 There are no obstacles to people exercising their right to freedom of expression online.
The judiciary in Estonia is independent, and there have not been any instances of political interference with the judiciary. According to a 2021 survey, 66 percent of Estonians trust the judiciary.2
In March 2022, the parliament adopted amendments to the Public Sector Information Act submitted by the Ministry of Justice. The amendments align Estonian law with the EU’s revised Public Sector Information Directive, which governs public access to state data.3
Protections for journalists, which include the right to the confidentiality of sources, are strong.4
- 1“Constitution of the Republic of Estonia,” Republic of Estonia, accessed February 7, 2022, https://www.president.ee/en/republic-of-estonia/the-constitution/.
- 2European Commission, “The 2021 EU Justice Scoreboard,” 2021, https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/eu_justice_scoreboard_202….
- 3Parliament of Estonia, ”Avaliku teabe seaduse muutmise seadus 409 SE", 2021, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/110032022004?leiaKehtiv; Riigi Teataja, “Public Sector Information Act,” November 15, 2000, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/514112013001/consolide/current; “Directive (EU) 2019/1024 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019,” European Union Law, June 26, 2019, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1561563110433&uri=C….
- 4Ieva Azanda, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, Jüri Estam, Ilze Jaunalksne, Allen-Illimar Putnik, “Of the Rights and Responsibilities of the Journalist,” Re:Baltica and the Centre for Media Studies of the Stockholm School of Economics, 2018, https://www.sseriga.edu/sites/default/files/inline-files/estonian_legal….
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||3.003 4.004|
On paper, there are few limits on freedom of expression online. Speech that publicly incites hatred, violence, or discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, color, gender, language, origin, religion, sexual orientation, political opinion, or financial or social status is punishable by a fine of up to €3,200 ($3,600) under the penal code.1 Such speech is also punishable by up to three years in prison if it leads to the “death of a person or results in damage to health or other serious consequences.”
In February 2021, Minister of Justice Maris Lauri stated that penalties in hate speech cases should be re-evaluated, specifying that a one-to-three-year prison sentence could be a fair penalty in criminal cases.5 The coalition government has since shelved these plans.6
In October 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) considered whether a defamation case could be brought before a court in Estonia if the company affected is based domestically, despite the infringing content being published on a Swedish website.7 The CJEU clarified that the party affected may sue in the country where its center of interest resides but noted that it is not possible to bring cases in any country where the online information is accessible.8
- 1Riigi Teataja, “Penal Code,” Article 151, June 6, 2001, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/Riigikogu/act/519012017002/consol….
- 2The amended penal code was adopted in 2001 and entered into force in 2002.
- 3Riigi Teataja, “Law of Obligations Act,” September 26, 2001, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/524012017002/consolide.
- 4Cases from the Estonian Supreme Court are available here: http://www.nc.ee/?id=194.
- 5“Justice minister: Coalition will proceed with hate speech legislation”, ERR News, February 11, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608105046/justice-minister-coalition-will-proceed-….
- 6“Vaenukõne seaduse eelnõu jääb riiulisse [The hate speech bill remains on the shelf[,” ERR News, March 23, 2021, https://www.err.ee/1608151555/vaenukone-seaduse-eelnou-jaab-riiulisse.
- 7“Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012,” European Union Law, December 12, 2012, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32012R1215.
- 8“Judgement of the Court 17 October 2017 in Case C-194/16 Bolagsupplysningen OÜ and Ingrid Ilsjan v. Svensk Bolagsuppkysning AB,” InfoCuria Case-law, October 17, 2017, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?num=C-194/16.
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||6.006 6.006|
There were no criminal prosecutions or detentions for online activities during the coverage period.
In April 2022, two Eesti Ekspress journalists, Tarmo Vahter and Sulev Vedler, as well as their employer were fined €1,000 ($1,100) each for publishing an article about alleged money laundering conducted by managers of a major Swedish bank1 . Though the case generated a wider public discussion about press freedom, Justice Minister Maris Lauri insisted that leaking information about ongoing investigations can potentially help criminals conceal crimes and is thus not protected by laws related to press freedom.2 The decision prompted pushback from both private and public media organizations in Estonia, as well as Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, former president Kersti Kaljulaid, and current president Alar Karis.3 In June 2022, after the coverage period, the fines were dismissed by an appeals court.4
In February 2022, a first instance court dismissed a libel claim from media mogul Margus Linnamäe against former prime minister Siim Kallas. The claim concerned an interview Kallas gave in which he suggested that Linnamäe could dictate the policy of the Isamaa opposition party. The court found Kallas’ statement to be neither derogatory nor defamatory. The plaintiff had not filed an appeal with the second instance court as of the end of the coverage period.5
A previous defamation case concerning two journalists in 2018 prompted the Estonian Data Protection Inspectorate (AKI) to call for “all authors operating in the public sphere,” including social media users, to abide by journalistic principles “when publishing current, social or other public interest texts.”6
- 1“Journalists fined over Swedbank piece raises Estonia press freedoms worries,” ERR News, May 5, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608587308/journalists-fined-over-swedbank-piece-ra….
- 2“Justice minister: Media must not impinge on the workings of fair justice,” ERR News, May 5, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608587500/justice-minister-media-must-not-impinge-….
- 3“Journalists fined over Swedbank piece raises Estonia press freedoms worries”, ERR News, May 5, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608587308/journalists-fined-over-swedbank-piece-ra…; “Kallas: the press must be able to work freely” [in Estonian], ERR News, May 5, 2022, https://www.err.ee/1608587611/kallas-ajakirjandus-peab-saama-vabalt-too….
- 4Committee to Protect Journalists, “Two Estonian journalists fined over article on money laundering,” May 18, 2022 (updated June 14, 2022), https://cpj.org/2022/05/two-estonian-journalists-fined-over-article-on-….
- 5"Court dismisses media mogul libel claim against veteran Reform MP,” ERR News, February 23, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608509651/court-dismisses-media-mogul-libel-claim-….
- 6“Kohtuotsus sõnavabaduse vastutusest” [Judgment on liability for freedom of expression], Data Protection Inspectorate, November 19, 2019, https://www.aki.ee/et/uudised/kohtuotsus-sonavabaduse-vastutusest.
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||4.004 4.004|
There are no governmental restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption, and no SIM card registration requirements.1 However, in October 2020, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act, suggesting stricter verification processes for users of pre-paid SIM cards, which would have also required WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype to register as communication service providers.2 The provisions were ultimately abandoned in a revised version of the bill, which was approved in November 2021 (see A4).3
Some major news sites have limited anonymous commenting on their articles in reaction to the establishment of intermediary liability for third-party defamatory comments on internet news portals (see B3).
- 1Privacy International, “Timeline of SIM Card Registration Laws,” June 11, 2019, https://privacyinternational.org/long-read/3018/timeline-sim-card-regis….
- 2“Ministry wants to tighten identification regulations on pre-paid SIM cards,” ERR news, October 21, 2020, https://news.err.ee/1149511/ministry-wants-to-tighten-identification-re….
- 3Parliament of Estonia, “Elektroonilise side seaduse, ehitusseadustiku ja riigilõivuseaduse muutmise seadus 301 SE [Electronic Communications Act, Building Code and State Fees Act Amendment Act 301 SE],” Accessed February 2022, https://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/43b3dabf-bbdd-4191-920e….
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||6.006 6.006|
Historically, government surveillance has not been intrusive, and the constitution guarantees the right to the confidentiality of messages sent or received.1
Parliament’s Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee oversees surveillance and security agencies. The committee monitors the activities of these bodies to ensure conformity with the constitution, the Security Authorities Act,2 and other regulations, which include necessity and proportionality requirements.
The prosecutor's office monitors surveillance activities and reports regularly to the parliamentary select committee. In its annual report for 2020, the prosecutor’s office disclosed that it had granted law enforcement bodies permission to use surveillance tools in cases concerning organized crime and crimes relating to drugs and taxes.3
The Chancellor of Justice, who serves as the state ombudsperson, verifies whether state agencies that organize the interception of phone calls and conversations, surveil correspondence, and otherwise covertly collect, process, and use personal data operate lawfully. In her 2020–21 annual report, the Chancellor of Justice noted that the office reviewed 135 surveillance files from police stations, the findings of which showed that “surveillance authorizations were reasoned and surveillance was necessary to verify suspicion of a criminal offense.” The Chancellor’s advisors also confirmed that requests in criminal proceedings for the submission of data from communications service providers, including telecommunications companies, had been lawful (see C6).4
A December 2020 investigation by the Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto-based research center, identified the Estonian government as a likely customer of Circles, a surveillance company that allows customers to monitor calls, texts, and cell phone geolocation by exploiting weaknesses in mobile telecommunications infrastructure. Following the revelation, the Ministry of Defense refused to comment.5
In May 2020, the Riigikogu adopted the Act Amending the Defense Forces Organization Act, the Security Authorities Act, and the Chancellor of Justice Act, which allow the military to access private data and surveil citizens under certain emergency circumstances.6
- 1“Constitution of the Republic of Estonia,” Republic of Estonia.
- 2Riigi Teataja, “Security Authorities Act,” December 20, 2000, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/522032019003/consolide.
- 3Dilaila Nahkuh-Tammiksaar, Taavi Pern, Helina Uku, “Prokuratuuri Tegevus 2020. Aastal” [Activities of the Prosecutor’s Office 2020], 2021, https://aastaraamat.prokuratuur.ee/sites/default/files/inline-files/Pro….
- 4Chancellor of Justice, “Chancellor´s year in review: Protection of Privacy,” accessed March 7, 2022, https://www.oiguskantsler.ee/annual-report-2021/protection-of-privacy.
- 5Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Siddharth Prakash Rao, Siena Anstis, and Ron Deibert, “Running in Circles Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles,” The Citizen Lab, December 1, 2020, https://citizenlab.ca/2020/12/running-in-circles-uncovering-the-clients….
- 6Riigi Teataja, “Estonian Defence Forces Organisation Act,” accessed September 2022, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/512062020001/consolide.
|Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy?||4.004 6.006|
Estonia has strong laws protecting citizens’ personal information, although service providers are mandated to retain user data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in all EU member states in May 2018,1 puts limits on how interested parties can use and store Estonians’ data.
The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) was amended in 2018 and entered into force in January 2019.2 The law contains the provisions left by the GDPR to EU member states' legislation, which includes certain exceptions like those identifying instances when the media can use personal data if it is in the public interest. Laws regulating databases and data collection by public and private registries were also updated during this process. The AKI is the supervisory authority for the PDPA.3
Service providers are required to collect and retain a substantial amount of metadata. These requirements were established under the Electronic Communications Act, which aligned with EU legislation. They were cast into doubt by the CJEU in April 2014, when the court found the European Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC) to be invalid.4
Article 111 of the Electronic Communications Act outlines various restrictions on how this data can be stored and used.5 Data shall be kept for one year, unless there are special circumstances determined by the government that justify keeping it longer, such as maintaining public order and national safety. Article 112 regulates how requests by law enforcement authorities or other agencies can be made in relevant situations, such as criminal investigations, as provided by law. Judicial approval is not always required. These requests for data are kept by the requesting agency for two years. Article 112 also stipulates that operators shall inform the TTJA of requests made and measures undertaken. The Electronic Communications Act has been criticized for allowing requests for metadata in too many situations. While Estonia’s Chancellor of Justice has found that the system does not contradict constitutional guarantees, the office has questioned the proportionality of the law.6 Pursuant to the Electronic Communications Act, the Cybersecurity Act also requires companies to monitor communications, mainly to ensure the security of their own systems; companies are required to inform the RIA of “actions or software compromising the security of the system.”7
The Chancellor of Justice can make suggestions regarding data protection. In its 2021-2022 annual report, the Chancellor of Justice noted that the office “did not identify any violations in the work of surveillance and security agencies” based on claims submitted by citizens.8
In October 2020, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications proposed amendments to the Electronic Communications Act. The amendments, which were later abandoned,9 would have forced messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype to register as service providers113 (see C4).10
In November 2018, Estonia’s Supreme Court made a referral for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU to find out whether EU law, such as the Charter of Fundamental Rights, prevents the state from using people’s metadata during investigations into crimes other than serious crimes and whether this process should include judicial review.11 The CJEU’s preliminary ruling outlined that the tracking of movement and communication through metadata from telecommunication providers is permissible only in cases of terrorism or serious crime.12 This preliminary ruling affected many ongoing criminal proceedings as this type of evidence may be considered inadmissible.
In June 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that neither the prosecutor’s office nor the court can request communications data from companies in certain criminal investigations, following an October 2020 ruling from the CJEU in the LaQuadrature du Net case, which held that “indiscriminate” collection and retention of communications data in cases involving non-serious crimes does not align with the EU’s ePrivacy Directive. However, under the Estonian ruling, “surveillance and security authorities” still have the right to access communications data, so long as the measure is within the scope of the law.13
- 1Riigi Teataja, “Isikuandmete katise seadus” [Personal Data Protection Act], December 12, 2018, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/akt/104012019011.
- 2Publications Office of the European Union, “Regulation 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016,” April 27, 2016, https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/3e48…
- 3Republic of Estonia: Data Protection Inspectorate, “1 year GDPR – taking stock,” accessed September 30, 2020, https://www.aki.ee/en.
- 4European Court of Justice, “Digital Rights Ireland Ltd (C-293/12) and Kärntner Landesregierung (C-594/12),” InfoCuria Case-law, April 8, 2014, http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?docid=150642&doclang….
- 5Riigi Teataja, “Electronic Communications Act,” December 8, 2004, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/Riigikogu/act/521052020003/consol….
- 6Chancellor of Justice, “Elektroonilise side seaduse § 1111 alusel sideandmete töötlemise põhiseaduspärasus” [Constitutionality of processing of communications data under § 1111 of the Electronic Communications Act], April 22, 2016, https://www.oiguskantsler.ee/sites/default/files/field_document2/elektr….
- 7Riigi Teataja, “Cybersecurity Act,” May 9, 2018, https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/523052018003/consolide.
- 8Chancellor of Justice, “Annual Review of the Chancellor of Justice 2021/2022” [in Estonian], 2022, https://www.oiguskantsler.ee/ylevaade2022/julgeolek.
- 9Parliament of Estonia, “Elektroonilise side seaduse, ehitusseadustiku ja riigilõivuseaduse muutmise seadus 301 SE [Electronic Communications Act, Building Code and State Fees Act Amendment Act 301 SE],” Accessed September 2021, https://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/43b3dabf-bbdd-4191-920e….
- 10“Ministry wants to tighten identification regulations on pre-paid SIM cards,” ERR news, October 21, 2020, https://news.err.ee/1149511/ministry-wants-to-tighten-identification-re….
- 11Riigikohus, “Kohtuasja number I-16-6179 [Case number I-16-6179],” November 12, 2018, https://www.riigikohus.ee/et/lahendid?asjaNr=1-16-6179/85.
- 12”Euroopa Kohus lubab sideandmeid süütõenditena kasutada ainult erijuhul [European Court permits the use of metadata in limited cases],” ERR, March 2, 2021, https://www.err.ee/1608127735/euroopa-kohus-lubab-sideandmeid-suutoendi….
- 13“Supreme Court: State cannot demand telephone communication data,” ERR News, June 18, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608251514/supreme-court-state-cannot-demand-teleph….
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities?||5.005 5.005|
There have been no registered physical attacks against users or online journalists, though online discussions are sometimes inflammatory. Both critics and supporters of the EKRE have faced online harassment, including threats of violence, for their views.1 Online harassment can be reported to the social media administrators or to the police, which has a designated web patrol unit with a presence on Facebook.2
In recent years, several defamation cases have incited public debate on the accepted code of conduct in the digital space and the appropriate sanctioning for breaches such as verbal threats, intimidation, and harassment.3
During the coverage period, online users were subject to harassment on social media platforms. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers who were on duty at an anti-vaccination protest were identified by protesters and later attacked on social media.4
In October 2020, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Estonia, as the country had not opted for the criminalization of public incitement to violence or hatred directed at vulnerable groups and had not defined adequate penalties for this offense.5 While the new coalition government has pledged to criminalize hate speech, the prosecutor general has opposed this motion, because he believes it restricts freedom of speech.6
- 1Shaun Walker, “Racism, sexism, Nazi economics: Estonia's far right in power,” Guardian, May 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/21/racism-sexism-nazi-econom…; “Police: We take threats very seriously,” ERR News, 21 November 2019, https://news.err.ee/1005278/police-we-take-threats-very-seriously.
- 2Council of Europe, “Reporting in Estonia: National reporting procedures for cyberbullying, hate speech and hate crime,” accessed September 30, 2020, https://rm.coe.int/estonia-nationalreporting-en/pdf/16808a36c3.
- 3“Court to hear radio presenter's slander claim against petition organizer,” ERR News, August12, 2020, https://news.err.ee/1123055/court-to-hear-radio-presenter-s-slander-cla….
- 4“Justiitsminister mõistab politseinike ja nende perede ründamise ning ähvardamise hukka“, Pealinn, 17.02.2022, https://pealinn.ee/2022/02/17/justiitsminister-moistab-politseinike-ja-…
- 5“Prosecutor general: I oppose the criminalization of hate speech,” ERR News, February 17, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608112696/prosecutor-general-i-oppose-the-criminal….
- 6“Prosecutor general: I oppose the criminalization of hate speech,” ERR News, February 17, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608112696/prosecutor-general-i-oppose-the-criminal….
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||3.003 3.003|
According to the ITU’s 2020 Global Cybersecurity Index, Estonia ranked third in the world regarding its commitment to ensuring cybersecurity.1 In 2018, the government allocated additional funds to advancing the country’s online security and adopted a new Cyber Security Strategy for 2019–22.2 Despite this, government agencies experienced significant cyberattacks during the coverage period.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, cyberattacks originating from Russia3 have intensified, however the low level of sophistication of the attacks as well as countermeasures taken by Estonian cybersecurity specialists have limited the impact. For example, in April 2022, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack targeted websites belonging to the president, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Police and Border Guard Board, as well as the online portals for digital state services. Although the attacks persisted for almost a week, the websites were fully operation a few hours after the initial attack.4
In November 2020, the websites of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were attacked, and personal data was leaked. The Ministry of Social Affairs’ website suffered the most serious attack, as personal data concerning the spread of infectious diseases was obtained from the Health and Welfare Information Systems Center (TEHIK); TEHIK, however, nullified the attack after eight hours.5
Estonia’s cybersecurity strategy is built on strong private-public collaboration and a unique voluntary structure through the National Cyber Defense League.6 With more than 150 experts participating, the league has simulated different security threat scenarios in defense exercises, with the aim of improving the technical resilience of telecommunication networks and other critical infrastructure.7
As an additional measure to ensure the security of public electronic data, Estonia established the first of several planned “data embassies” in 2019. The first embassy, based in Luxembourg, stores public data and information systems critical to the functioning of the state, including its state gazette, land registry, and business register, in the cloud, enabling the Estonian state to function in the event of a cyberattack or other political crisis within the country. The bilateral agreement between the two governments to establish the embassy was signed in June 2017 and it was ratified by both parliaments. The data embassy is granted the same privileges bestowed upon traditional embassies.8
The Estonian e-governance infrastructure suffered one of its first major challenges in 2017, when a chip malfunction that could lead to potential security breaches was discovered in government-issued ID cards.9 In response, the government recalled security certificates for more than 760,000 ID cards, which made their electronic use impossible until the certificates were renewed.10
In late 2021, a declassified document revealed that a vulnerability had been detected in the Estonian ID card software back in 2011. The vulnerability affected 120,000 cards issues in 2011 and allowed the cards to be used without their respective pin codes. The public was not notified of the problem at the time and government authorities were criticized for merely asking users to update their certificates.11
The cybersecurity law implements EU Directive 2016/1148 on measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems.12 It includes requirements to have a computer security incident response team (CSIRT) and a competent national network and information security (NIS) authority (which Estonia previously had) and strengthens cooperation among EU member states. Businesses identified as operators of essential services are required to take appropriate security measures and to notify serious incidents to the relevant national authority. The supervisory authority under the Estonian Cybersecurity Act is the RIA.13
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence is located in Tallinn. Since its founding, the center has supported awareness campaigns and academic research, and hosted several high-profile conferences, among other activities. The center organizes an annual International Conference on Cyber Conflict, or CyCon, bringing together international experts from governments, the private sector, and academia, with the goal of ensuring the development of a free and secure internet.
- 1International Telecommunications Union, “Global Cybersecurity Index 2020,” accessed in September 2022,, https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Cybersecurity/Pages/global-cybersecurity-i….
- 2National Information System Authority, “Küberturvalisus 2019” [Cybersecurity 2019], 2019, https://www.ria.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/kuberturve/kuber….
- 3“Luukas Ilves: Vene kübervõimekus on kõva, aga mitte võitmatu [Luukas Ilves: Russian cyber capability is strong, but not invincible],” ERR News, April 27, 2022, https://www.err.ee/1608579442/luukas-ilves-vene-kubervoimekus-on-kova-a….
- 4“DDoS cyberattacks temporarily disrupt Estonian government websites”, ERR, April 24, 2022, https://news.err.ee/1608573376/ddos-cyberattacks-temporarily-disrupt-es…
- 5“Three government ministries came under cyber attack in November,” ERR News, December 1, 2020, https://news.err.ee/1192411/three-government-ministries-came-under-cybe…
- 6Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communication, “Cyber Security Strategy 2014-2017,” 2013, https://www.mkm.ee/sites/default/files/cyber_security_strategy_2014-201….
- 7“Estonian Defense League’s Cyber Unit,” Kaitseliit (Estonian Defense League), accessed September 30, 2020, http://www.kaitseliit.ee/en/cyber-unit.
- 8Riigikogu, “Majanduskomisjon toetab andmesaatkonna rajamist Luksemburgi” [The Committee of Economic Affairs supports the establishment of a data embassy in Luxembourg], February 13, 2018, https://www.riigikogu.ee/pressiteated/majanduskomisjon-et-et/majandusko….
- 9“ID-kaardi turvariski ja uuendamise taustinfo” [Background information on ID card security risk and renewal], ID.ee, October 25, 2017, https://web.archive.org/web/20171109075059/http://www.id.ee:80/index.ph….
- 10“ID-kaardi turvariski ja uuendamise taustinfo” [Background information on ID card security risk and renewal], ID.ee.
- 11”Declassified documents reveal ID-card crisis from decade ago”, ERR, November 26, 2021, https://news.err.ee/1608415676/declassified-documents-reveal-id-card-cr….
- 12Riigikogu, “Küberturvalisuse seadus 597 SE” [Cybersecurity Act 597 SE], May 9, 2018, https://www.riigikogu.ee/tegevus/eelnoud/eelnou/61815f7a-1025-4aea-9b0e….
- 13“The Directive on security of network and information systems (NIS Directive),” European Commission, July 15, 2019 https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/network-and-information-s….
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score94 100 free
Internet Freedom Score93 100 free
Freedom in the World StatusFree